We've been working hard to promote American Made products lately, in support of American workers who need jobs. All of our furniture is 100% American Made (100% Vermont made actually– well OK, I think we have a few chairs that are made in Massachusetts) but we wanted to do more. Dennis started our "Made in America" Holiday Gift Challenge event last month asking people to purchase "American Made" holiday gifts. We've got about 46 takers so far and you can add your name to the list if you're on Facebook.
Well, more and more with each passing day, it seems that buying American isn't just a patriotic thing to do– it's an economically smart strategy. In his Harvard Business Review column, Harold Sirkin sees a resurgence of USA manufacturing coming in response to changing economics. Chinese workers are starting to fight for higher wages at the same time that the cost of fuel and shipping from China to the US are also on the rise. Companies like Volkswagen are noticing– they recently opened a new $1Billion factory in Tennessee.
Now what will the big so-called "American" furniture companies do… like Furniture Brands International, the huge multi-national company that's bought out many of our iconic American furniture companies (Broyhill, Lane, Thomasville, etc.) over the last 30 years? Well they anticipated this years ago and have moved many of their overseas operations from China to Viet Nam where wages are still deplorably low and regulations are even more non-existent than in China. But that's for another day and another discussion.
The good news is that there is still plenty of American made furniture being built in the USA and the best of it is right up here in Vermont!
We've been working hard to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from and how it is made. Part of our founding mission at Vermont Woods Studios is forest conservation and we've focused much of our attention on preservation of the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests.
Did you know that up to 90% of the furniture you see in American furniture stores today is made with wood that has been illegally clear cut from the rainforest? In fact the rainforest is being logged at a rate of about 1 football field per second to satisfy the world's insatiable demand for cheap furniture and flooring.
Hard to believe isn't it? But sadly it's true and along with loss of the forest we are losing many species of plants and animals. Scientists estimate we lose over 100 species every day just due to rainforest destruction.
Well, I guess our efforts (and those of many others) to protect the rainforest are beginning to have an effect because China and other overseas manufacturering hubs are beginning to find additional sources of lumber. Guess where they are getting enormous supplies of wood?
Would you believe Vermont? Yes and other places across the USA and Canada. So here's how it goes: logs are shipped from the USA to China. They are fashioned into low quality furniture by workers making about 20 cents/hour. Then the furniture is shipped back to America for sale where it will hold up for about 3-5 years before it's placed out on the curbside. Does that sound crazy to you? I guess that's what they call globalization.
But there are still many small furniture makers in the USA who are fighting to maintain our 200+ year traditions of craftsmanship, style and quality. Check them out before you head to Ashley Furniture or Bob's Discount. You'll pay more up front but in the long run you'll save big time, buying high quality American made furniture that will be in your family for generations.